Security Concern: Pictures Worth 1,000 Words … Including Your Location

Location Services and Your Camera

Location Services and Your Camera

Taking pictures on your mobile phone is simple and something you take for granted most of the time. And if you load them on your computer at home, some photo management applications (like Photoshop Elements and iPhoto) can even plot on a map where you took your pictures. This is nifty for seeing all your overseas vacation pictures grouped separately on that map. It’s fun.

But it might not be fun all the time. When you upload these photos to sharing services, that location information goes with those pictures. This includes Facebook. Depending on the GPS in your smartphone, precise location information might be included.

Here is the worst case scenario: A predator can learn family names using social media channels. Using picture EXIF data, that criminal can deduce locations of child care facilities, friends’ homes, and even room location in your home. Anywhere you’ve snapped a picture and then shared it.

How? Every picture is actually a computer file. Along with the information required to generate the image, that file also stores technical information. This usually includes the make of the camera, the settings of that camera, the dimensions of the image, date taken, and (you guessed it!) where it was taken (usually latitude and longitude). Collectively, this data is called Exchangeable Image Format (EXIF) info.

If this bothers you, you can simply turn off Location Services on your smartphone.

For iPhones with iOS 6, do the following:

  1. From the Home Screen, tap Settings.
  2. Tap Privacy.
  3. Tap Location Services.
  4. Find Camera in the list and tap the toggle to Off.

For other devices, I did some research and found that Amazon has a great resource for doing this on iPhone with iOS 5, Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows Phone.

Turning Off Location Information on Specific Devices [Amazon]